Comedy about temptation; Quotation Inspiration April '09
Don’t Tempt Me
"I can resist everything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde
Tammy Dixon set a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies in the center of the kitchen table and refilled two coffee cups before she sat down. The scent of just-baked cookies was maddening. She ogled the sheen of each melted chocolate morsel. Her eyelids drooped and her pulse quickened as she indulged in the fantasy of shoving a whole cookie into her mouth at once, thrilling her senses with the sweet goodness, not caring if it smeared on her lips or stuck to the roof of her mouth. Blinking rapidly, she raised her eyes and met Cheryl Rampey’s amused gaze from across the table. Cheryl brought a cigarette to her mouth and dragged deeply, watching her friend of thirty years through squinted eyes.
She blew the smoke out the side of her mouth, directing the haze up and away. “Well go on, Tammy, have a cookie.”
“No thanks, I’m not cheatin’ on my diet with only two weeks until the reunion.” Tammy tilted her chin and gave her head a little shake. With a grin she shouted, “Memphis and Hailey! Y’all get in here and clean up this mess!”
Cheryl took another drag on her cigarette and reached for a cookie. Tammy cringed. “Can you even taste that cookie while you’re smoking?”
“It tastes just fine, Miss Jealous.”
“You’re the one who’ll be jealous when I make my entrance at the reunion and everyone sees I can still fit into the jeans I wore senior year.”
The door swung open and two girls clad in torn denim and black t-shirts sauntered in. Tammy’s face lit with a smile, an automatic reaction triggered every time her daughter entered the room. Memphis looked right at her and rolled her eyes. Tammy was used to this response which replaced a reciprocal smile when Memphis turned thirteen two years ago. At first it broke Tammy’s heart, but she’d adopted her own brand of retort. Before Memphis turned away, Tammy shot her tongue out at her.
The shadow of a smile graced Memphis’ lips as she turned to Hailey. “Come on, we gotta pick up.” But Hailey was busy typing a text message on her phone, and didn’t look up. Memphis sighed loudly and fell into the empty chair beside her mother.
Her eyes grew round as she reached for the open book on the table. “What’s this?”
Snubbing out her cigarette, Cheryl said, “That’s your mama’s and my high school yearbook. Our twenty-five year reunion is in a couple weeks and we’re trying to guess who’ll come home for it. You think you can find your mom?”
Memphis’ eyes darted across the glossy page for about ten seconds before she stabbed a composite photo. “Dang, Mama! You look exactly the same!”
Tammy beamed, but Cheryl gave a gravelly laugh. “Well,” she chuckled, “her hair does, at least.”
“It does not!” Tammy said with laughing eyes. “Look at how much longer it was in school.”
Tammy fingered her shoulder-length hair. The official name of her blond locks was Champagne, a shade she began using when she was a little older than Memphis. Tammy had always been self-conscious of her short forehead, and her coif didn’t look right until she’d given it some lift on top. With a few twists of a curling iron and a tease or two with a fine-toothed comb, Tammy gave her hair the illusion of being four inches taller than it really was. The trick was to apply ample amounts of hairspray, administered in layers with adequate dry time between each coat, so that no activity or amount of wind could deflate it.
Hailey punched a final button on her phone and looked up. “Hi, y’all,” she said as if she’d just arrived. “Memphis,” she added, summoning her with a stiff flick of her head. Memphis rose and followed her friend to the kitchen island littered with egg shells and Tupperware containers of sugar and flour. Heads together, they conversed in low, conspiratorial murmurs.
Tammy and Cheryl exchanged a look, then Cheryl said, “Seriously, Tammy, I think it’s time you changed your hair style. You’ve had the same look for ages. Why not try something sleeker, maybe parted on the side? And I hate to break it to you, but the trend these days is soft, so quit using all that hairspray.”
A knot of panic rose in Tammy’s throat. Give up hairspray? That’d be impossible; she’d look like she just got out of bed. Her hair would hang on her head. Her short forehead would be so obvious! She had to stop this mad talk, and stop it now. “I’ll tell you what,” she began in a voice strangely calm considering her inner turmoil. “I’ll agree to give up hairspray if you agree to quit smoking.” Ha! Problem solved, she thought. Cheryl started smoking when they were fifteen, since the day they stole a cigarette out of her mother’s purse and sparked it in the woods behind her house. Cheryl understood addiction; she’d see Tammy’s hairspray was just like her smoking, nothing one gave up cold turkey…
“Okay, you’re on,” Cheryl declared. Tammy froze as Cheryl continued. “I’ve been toying with the idea of quitting for some time now. This reunion has got me thinking; we’re not as young as we used to be. And you’re right, I can’t taste these cookies. I haven’t enjoyed food in years. It’s time I pulled my foot out of the grave and got healthy. And hey, we can do this together. Support each other! What do you say?”
Before Tammy could recover from her shock, Memphis and Hailey appeared at her side. “You’re going to give up hairspray, Mom?” Memphis’ voice was accusatory. “And you’re going to quit smoking? Whoa…”
Hailey nudged Memphis, who leered at her with wide eyes, then went on. “I’m not saying you can’t do it,” she said in a syrupy voice, “but how about some incentive? Remember that bonfire party I asked you if I could go to and you said, ‘Hell, no’ --"
“Sorry, Mama, I’m just repeating what you said. Anyways, if y’all cheat and wear hairspray or smoke before the weekend... I'll be allowed to go with Hailey to that party. See, you don’t want me to, so you’ll try extra hard… what do you say?”
“Memphis, y’aren’t going to that party and that’s final.”
“Oh, come on, Tammy, let’s take her bet! It’ll get us started. That party -- that you’re not going to,” she let her gaze linger on Memphis, “-- is in five days? Perfect! A little motivation for the first week is exactly what we need."
“Yeah, come on, Mama! We know you can do it.” She smiled slyly at Hailey.
They stood inside the sweating glass doors. The bowling alley din carried on smoky air like visible sentences punctuated by the hollow crack of balls striking pins. Tammy ran trembling fingers across her forehead in an attempt to coax limp bangs out of her eyes, and glanced sideways at Cheryl. Cheryl stared into space and Tammy had the impression she was pulling in the second hand smoke more than scoping for a vacant lane. Tammy didn’t feel much sympathy for her friend, though. She had lollipops to suck on and at least she looked good. Not like old Tammy here who’d endured two days of people in grocery stores or gas stations telling her in concerned voices that she looked tired or sick. Stupid Cheryl and her stupid idea to quit hairspray.
“So, we goin’ in or what?” quipped Tammy.
“No, we’re going to stand here all night and greet the bowlers.”
“Hey, don’t be irritable with me. You’re the one who wanted to come here.”
“What? You texted me that you wanted to bowl tonight.”
Confused, Tammy turned but before she could say more Memphis and Hailey bustled through the doors and passed between them. “Come on, Mama,” Memphis cooed, linking arms and pulling her forward as Hailey clutched her bulging purse and detoured toward the restrooms.
They chose lane nineteen. Tammy lowered her ball to the ball return rack and drew a sharp breath.
“What’s the matter with you?” Cheryl snapped, following her stare.
A tall, thin woman with ample breasts stood at the ready on seventeen, eyes fixed on the pins at the end of the lane. Her raven hair hung in loose ringlets and her mouth was painted with high gloss ruby lipstick. With graceful steps and fluid arm, she launched the ball down the alley where it rolled parallel with the gutter before its trajectory arched center at the last minute, sending all ten pins flying.
Tammy turned away, fluffing her bangs with frantic flicks of her fingers. Cheryl sidled up next to her. “You listen to me. You look fine, y’hear? That Wendy Tripp is as stuck on herself today as she was back in school. She walks around like she just won prom queen yesterday, which ought to tell you how ridiculous she is. Now, come on. Don’t let an old rivalry spoil our fun, okay?”
“Okay,” Tammy muttered. “I’ve gotta use the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” She hurried past Memphis, who was waving to Wendy Tripps’ daughter across the way.
She burst into the restroom and leaned back against the door, forcing it shut. Her breathing was shallow and her heart raced. She stared at a stain on the ceiling tile overhead, wishing she’d stayed home. After a minute her head rolled to the left and her eyes rested on a silver canister on the vanity beside the sink. Light gleamed on the can of hairspray like a ray of sunshine breaking through a storm cloud. She took a tentative step forward, not trusting her eyes, afraid it and the thin-toothed comb next to it would vanish like a mirage. With shaking fingers, she reached out her hand.
Tammy returned as Cheryl picked up a spare. Cheryl whooped and punched the air, looking more relaxed and happy than Tammy had seen her in days. Suspicion darkened Tammy’s face as she passed the empty table two steps up from the lane. An ashtray sat on the table holding a crushed cigarette, a fine line of smoke still issued from the butt. Tammy’s eyes moved from the smoldering cigarette to Cheryl and her suddenly sunny disposition, then shifted her gaze to catch Memphis and Hailey watching her. In awkward synchronization, the girls’ heads snapped in opposite directions, then down as Hailey’s phone heralded a new text message.
Pitch-black darkness cloaked the car where the women waited on the dirt road. Wendy spoke from the backseat. “How’d y’all know the girls were sneaking out here tonight?”
“Memphis was mad at Tammy when she wouldn’t let her go to this party even though she won a bet,” said Cheryl.
“I never agreed to that bet, if you recall. Besides, she didn’t ‘win.’ She tricked us.”
“What’d she do?”
“Let’s just say,” said Cheryl, “she and her text-happy friend made sure we were in the right place at the right time, and then planted little temptations for us to stumble on.”
“Boy, they’re sneaky at this age, aren’t they?” Wendy said. “I’m pretty sure my daughter lifted a smoke from my purse the other night at the bowling alley.”
Tammy gave Cheryl her raised eyebrow I-told-you-so look. “Well, they’re sneaky but not very smart. I can’t believe they pulled the old say-we’re-sleeping-over-at-each-other’s-house trick.”
Wendy giggled. “Hey Cheryl, this reminds me of the time you told your mom you were staying at my house and you and Tammy went to the Skynard concert. Remember?”
Tammy rolled her eyes as the trees flanking the bend in the road up ahead illuminated, then went dark. “Hush, Wendy! Okay, that’s them.” Cheryl grinned at Tammy. “Payback time. Let’s roll.”
They exited the car, Cheryl dropping the cigarette she was smoking on the ground while Tammy ducked her head so her puffy hair would clear the door frame.
(WC according to Word, not including the title = 2000) Reviews welcome!! Contest deadline is April 30th.
Written for April 2009